What’s the Difference: Viruses vs. Malware

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Viruses vs. Malware – are you aware that your computer is susceptible to different kinds of threats? Educate yourself and learn what you’re up against!

In this article:

  1. What is Malware?
  2. What is a Virus?
  3. How is Malware Distributed?
  4. How Can You Prevent Malware from Infecting Your Computer?

Viruses vs. Malware | Basic Guide to Harmful Software


What is Malware?

Ransomware wannacry malware | What’s the Difference: Viruses vs. Malware

Malware is the shortened term for ‘malicious software’ designed to harm and infect a computer. This software was written with the intention of stealing or damaging data, hosts, or networks. It creeps into systems by connecting an infected drive or program to your computer. There are several types of malware, and some of the advanced software can even be used to extort money or for financial fraud.

Types of Malware

  • Virus – This is the most common type of computer threat. It copies itself to infect computers and acts like a parasite.
  • Adware – This type is designed to display unwanted ads to the user. This malware can track a user Internet usage and show a related advertisement. It’s not always intended for malicious use, but this type of malware can be really annoying.
  • Spyware – As the name suggests, this software is designed to spy on a user without consent. It allows the hacker to gather data about the user’s system.
  • Worm – A worm virus replicates itself, then destroys the data on a host computer.
  • Trojan – A type of malware that tricks users into thinking it’s a safe program to run. It can steal information and even take over the host system.
  • Ransomware – As could be derived from the name, this malware blocks a user’s access until he pays a fee.

What is a Virus?

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A virus is a type of malware designed to replicate and spread across different hosts. It spreads by copying itself into a program and becoming a part of it. Most viruses hide in executable files or files with ‘.exe’ extensions. A computer virus can lie idle in a host until the user runs the infected file or program.

How is Malware Distributed?

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One of the most common distribution channel for malware is drive-by download or the unintentional downloading of the software from the internet. It can also spread through electronic mails with unsolicited attachments or links.

The internet is not the only way a malware can spread. Even the use of physical drive or removable media such as USB drives can cause infection on another host. Malware is also capable of spreading through self-propagation within networks.

How Can You Prevent Malware from Infecting Your Computer?

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Getting your computer infected can lead to a lot of disruption. You may not get your files back, or you would need to reformat your computer. Not to mention the threat to your safety if it happens to be a form of advanced malware. Keep your computer and personal details safe by following the precautions listed below.

  • Install an anti-virus or anti-malware software – One of the first steps to ensure your computer’s safety is installing either an anti-virus or anti-malware. It sounds obvious enough, but you’ll be surprised to hear that many personal computers lack this software. Even if you’re only using your computer for personal use, it’s a must to have it protected since it still carries personal information.
  • Update your anti-virus software regularly – It’s not enough to simply install a protective software, you must also keep it updated! An anti-virus that isn’t maintained can leave your computer vulnerable to harmful software.
  • Run scheduled scans on your computer – People neglect to do this since running scans can cause a computer to slow down while the scan is on-going. You can simply set your system to run a scan at a time of day when you’re not busy or are away from your desktop or laptop. Just make sure it’s open and running at the time you set it. It’s ideal to run a scan at least once a week to make sure your computer has no threats.
  • Keep your operating system up-to-dateOS developers include security patches that fix security leaks during updates. This will help you keep your system secured.
  • Think before clicking or opening links – Always think twice before clicking on links, especially if it came from an unknown resource or email or from a suspicious website. If you have doubts, it’s better to leave the site or delete the email than risk having your computer infected. Make sure to also always scan a file you downloaded before opening it.
  • Keep your personal data safeHackers can’t get your details by force, but they can do so through social engineering. It’s quite difficult to keep personal data a secret in the era of the internet, but make sure you are cautious when you use it. Avoid laying out important information in social media or online forums and message boards.
  • Use strong and unique passwords – Don’t use passwords that are obvious, as this can lead all your personal accounts vulnerable and cause your personal details to spread. It’s also better to use different passwords for different accounts as it makes it harder for a hacker to access all your accounts at once.
  • Back up your files – No one wants to have their computer infected, but it’s better to be prepared. Back up all your files in a separate hard drive and even in cloud storage. This way, if you need to have your computer reformatted, you’ll still have all your files.


Download this infographic now and reference it later.

infographic | What’s The Difference: Viruses vs Malware

Computers and the Internet are great tools for communication and dealing with everyday tasks. There are, however, some people who choose to be unethical about the gifts of modern technology. But that isn’t a reason to deprive yourself of the benefits technology can give. All computers are at risk for a computer virus but you can certainly take measures to prevent this from happening to you. Just learn to protect yourself and your computer and you’ll be fine!

What steps do you take to make sure your computer is safe from malicious software? Let us know in the comments section!

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